Thursday February 18th
KELSO – Heavy (Soft in places)
The Morebattle meeting is one of Kelso’s top meetings of the season, with decent prize money for two conditions event but small fields for reasons discussed later in this piece.
We were among a group of Kelso Annual Members sponsoring a couple of races on the card. The hospitality in the Younger Stand was excellent, the superb is really good, and the coast was very reasonable. We will certainly return next year assuming a similar sponsorship arrangement is put in place.
I led the sweepstake held in the hospitality box going into the last race but was foiled as I could only manage a second place and a couple of others passed me. It was a hot contest as three winners, two seconds and a third only earned me third place! Can’t really complain though since it was a bumper that let me down and they are my favourite ‘jump’ races.
The going was reported as ‘very testing’ by a number of jockeys. The first hurdle in the straight and the nearby open ditch were omitted all afternoon.
1.20 2m Kelso Annual Members Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)
My wife and I were among the group on ‘Best Turned Out’ selection duty for this contest. The party selected Barry Murtagh’s SCRUTINY as the winner with Liz Butterworth on duty and she’s also listed as owner of this one. A multiple winner on the flat up to 10 furlongs, Scrutiny looked fit, but didn’t look at all happy slogging round here in the winter mud. He was detached by halfway and pulled up before the last.
Three came clear and look at least fair animals. The winner ROAD TO GOLD got outpaced by his two main rivals coming around the home bend, but picked up nicely going the last and won going away. A pointing winner in Ireland, this one shouldn’t struggle if upped in trip.
WESTERN RULES has run into one or two decent sorts. He seems to lack an extra gear at the business so is probably suited by the tactics adopted to set the pace. He held every chance at the last but found the winner too strong up the final hill.
The mare WATER SPRITE came here off the back of a Clonmel maiden hurdle on balance a 7 length third here was about an equivalent performance. She would have every chance in a mares’ race with a penalty and her trainer should find a suitable race for her.
The remainder were well beaten. FINAL FLING showed a glimmer of promise in bumeprs but hasn’t built on that in three hurdle races. RED MYSTQUE hasn’t got close over hurdles and his best efforts have been on better ground. ANNA GREY pulled up here, having been beaten a very long way on debut.
1.55 2m 7½f Border Hotel Kirk Yetholm Handicap Chase (108-125)
A disappointing turn out for a decent prize, but with consistent heavy going the sloggers are spread thinly.
ROCKING BLUES doesn’t have a huge amount of miles on the clock for an 11-year-old. He looks progressive now and bounded clear from before the last to win with any amount in hand.
CARRIGDHOUN set the pace and was headed after two out. He rallied but was held by a better handicapped horse.
GOLD OPERA’s jumping was sketchy and he paid the price. He held every chance passing the omitted open ditch, but weakened quickly. He has to prove he stays this trip and his jumping needs to sharpen.
LUCEMATIC lost touch on the long run from two out and has been below form on two runs this year.
REDKALANI was on and off the bridle and lost down the far side for the last time, pulling up before three out.
2.30 2m 2f Morebattle Hurdle (Class 2)
Pre-race discussion amongst the centred on the small fields for the main events. One suggested that this race should be made a handicap. This is understandable, but therein lies the problem. I strongly suspect the reason is that those running horses against highly rated runners are frightened of finishing too close and handicap mark suffering.
There’s an easy solution to the above. Firstly you have to have a handicap mark and secondly mark can’t be changed after a run in such an event.
With the Champion Hurdle market wide open TOP NOTCH came here as an outside contender for the title. He did prospects no harm, easing clear on the bridle with minimum of fuss.
ONE FOR HARRY ran to his best, driven to stay with Top Notch approaching the last but easily left behind once headed.
CHIC NAME was comfortably outpaced by the first two on the long run from two out.
CROCO BAY set a decent pace but weakened in the home straight. He presumably has a Cheltenham chase as a target.
3.05 3m 2f Ivan Straker Memorial Chase (Class 2)
This event had a sad conclusion since NEPTUNE EQUESTER collapsed and died on the horse walk returning after the race. He had been in fine form, having won the Borders National and went out on a high, producing as good a performance as any he had to chase home Unioniste. He took the race to the winner but was outpointed and sadly the after effects claimed him.
UNIONISTE was headed after two out but driven to lead and pulled clear. He jumped soundly here is aimed at the Grand National, but he tipped up early last year and has a moderate record in big fields.
SOLL ran a lack lustre race in conditions which should have suited. He was struggling on the final circuit and eventually allowed to come home in his own time.
CORRIN WOOD Was readily outpaced from the twelfth and pulled up soon after. He is another entered in the National, but this run offered no encouragement.
3.40 2m 6½f Kelso Annual Members Handicap Hurdle (104-124)
The curse of the low sun struck so that the final hurdle was removed and only 6 jumped in the race.
SHADES OF MIDNIGHT was considered worth a run in the Grade 2 novice here last year. I always felt there was more to come and he proved it in emphatic style at this level. He came well clear after turning for home. Difficult to judge from with so few hurdles though, and I would keep an eye on how the handicapper views the performance.
PILGRIMS BAY had every chance on the final turn but was well outpaced by the winner. He came clear of the remainder but tied up and was pipped for third on the line.
KINDOFEASY shared or took the lead for much of the way. He was outpaced by the winner but saw his race out to the line to snatch second place and lacks for nothing in attitude.
TEDDY TEE weakened on the long run-in.
LANDECKER raced prominently but he’s a difficult character, although he is capable on his day, and dropped away from the home turn.
4.15 2m 7½f P & G Allan Catering Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 5)
It paid to stick with proven stayers in this race as there were stamina doubts about some of the fancied runners. No fences in the home straight due to low sun.
DURBAN GOLD is an out-and-out stayer, and ideally probably needs further, but the gruelling conditions allowed her stamina to kick in up the home straight. Watch out for this one in the more extreme distance hunter contests.
WICKLOW LAD loves these conditions and was given every chance by Kit Alexander who kicked on entering the final circuit. He kept on for second place and is worth considering when the ground is deep.
MISTER MARKER stays well but didn’t have the pace to lay up in the latter stages.
BARACHOIS SILVER is well below second and third in the official figures and ran creditably before giving way in the home straight. She runs honest races and worth an interest in the weaker hunter events.
WAYUPINTHESKY was held no the long run-in. He needs to raise his game in this company.
HAVANA JACK scored in a poor maiden point at Balcormo and was up against it here, well behind from two out.
This was too much of a stamina test for BOBCATBILLY who didn’t help his cause by pulling hard early on.
KINGS GREY is a non-stayer and would need to be aimed at the shorter hunter events on better ground.
4.50 2m Racing UK in HD Next Month Standard Open NH Flat (Class 6)
Only two got seriously involved at the business end.
LADY BEAUFORT is quite a compact sort, well prepped for her first outing. She wore down the favourite in the final furlong, the pair well clear. A good start and she is a half-sister to four winners including Kadarann so there must be good prospects going forward.
RANDY PIKE was forward enough on debut as is normally the case with Richards’s runners. He responded well and picked up when driven two out, but was worn down in the latter stages. He’s got plenty to like about him and should make up into a jumper.
BRACKENMOSS RORY is related to chasing winners. He’s far from the finished product but kept on steadily without matching the first two. This was promising and he will produce better in time.
MOVE TO THE GROOVE, well presented as is the norm for McCain runners, led at a steady pace but was tapped for pace from two furlongs out. He is likely to be a different proposition once he has jumps in front of him.
I got chapter and verse on COACHIE BEAR. His previous stable didn’t really have a clear plan with this big chasing type and he had a physical on his sole outing last year. He has now changed hands and resides in Katie Scott’s yard, connections using this as a fact finding mission more than anything else. On that basis a prominent run and a fifth place must be encouraging. It might take time but there is a jumper waiting in this one.